Coming to theatres and to Netflix today, Friday, April 27:
THE RACHEL DIVIDE
An in-depth portrait of Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who engendered controversy over her racial identity.
In 2015, Dolezal, the outspoken president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP found herself in the midst of a media firestorm when journalists learned that she was white, even interviewing her parents who questioned her motives for passing as African American. Dolezal held firm, eventually claiming a “transracial” identity – a designation that only fueled the outrage against her perceived expression of white privilege. Brownson picks up in the aftermath, with Dolezal a pariah, removed from both the NAACP and from her position teaching African American Studies at a local university, and dependent on braiding hair to support her sons while she writes her autobiography. The film delves into her background, the biological daughter of a white couple who felt spiritually called to adopt several African American children – children who claim, as does Rachel, that they were then subject to violence and, for some sexual abuse. This allegation is positioned here as the reason that Dolezal’s background was initially called into question – she was a key party to a legal case by her adoptive sister against members of the family, and the damage done to Dolezal’s credibility effectively ended the possibility of the charges going forward. Despite this disturbing information, Dolezal remains obstinate and self-focused, never acknowledging the reasonable criticisms of cultural appropriation and privilege leveled against her – and their troubling impact on her own children – making this at once a fascinating and frustrating portrait.